Un-vanishing Angularities: Placing Pakistani Christians in Third-Millennium Cultural Texts

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In 1947, Jinnah imagined Pakistan as a secular State in which religious communities’ ‘angularities’ would ‘vanish’. Yet, with the consolidation of a national ideology which invokes Islam as Pakistan’s reason for being, this vision has become eroded. In the wake of the West-led ‘war on terror’, the vulnerability of Pakistan’s Christian minority to acts of ‘retaliation’ on account of a mistaken ‘Western’ affiliation, and to more ambiguous forms of social and legal discrimination, seems ever more apparent, and problematic to address.

This paper offers contextualised readings of a selection of literary, oral and visual texts produced and circulated in the wake the 2009 arrest of Asia Noreen Bibi under charges of blasphemy and the 2013 arson attack on Joseph Colony. These events have brought Christian communities’ ‘plight’ to international attention, and prompted calls for internal reform and re-cognition of Jinnah’s much-cited vision. Couched in a range of forms and deploying a range of techniques — auto/biographical, oratorial, documentary, and aesthetic — such cultural expressions may articulate and make visible, but also overlook, obfuscate, or exaggerate the complex social, economic and political dynamics, and the theological divergences, which render Pakistani Christians unequal. Hence this paper argues against championing such creative texts as ‘representative’ of a largely silent and subaltern minority. Instead, it proposes a cautious unfolding of what such works can reveal about the space afforded in the third millennium to the South Asian followers of a supposedly ‘Western’ faith in their Muslim-majority homeland. In doing so it also questions from whose perspective the position of Pakistani Christians can currently be envisaged or articulated, and explores what scope may exist within Pakistan for their place to be imagined differently.

Keywords: 9/11, Pakistan, Christians, non-Muslim minorities, memoir, autobiography oratory, photography, representation, Asia Bibi, Blasphemy, Aasia Nasir, Malcolm Hutcheson, Joseph Colony.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterary and Non-Literary Responses Towards 9/11
EditorsNukhbah Taj Langah
Place of PublicationAbingdon
ChapterPark IV: Who Else is Marginalised?
Number of pages0
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-429-39984-8
ISBN (Print)978-0-8153-7844-0
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2019


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